The Sci-Files – 4/26/2020 – Zoe Hansen – Bacterial Infections and the Gut

Chelsie Boodoo and Daniel Puentes

On this week’s The Sci-Files, your hosts Chelsie and Danny interview Zoe Hansen. Zoe is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on the human gut microbiome. Specifically, she is investigating how foodborne infection (for example, a Salmonella infection) influences antibiotic resistance in our gut. Antibiotic resistance refers to the ability of bacteria to survive despite being treated with drugs designed to kill them. This resistance is found everywhere around the world and it becomes especially problematic when human pathogens become resistant and no longer respond to our antibiotic therapies; this can lead to very severe and ongoing infections.

Zoe Hansen in Lab
Zoe Hansen in Lab

To observe how foodborne infections can influence antibiotic resistance in the gut, Zoe uses a method called “metagenomics” to look at microbial DNA from patients who had been infected. “Metagenomics” is the study of all genetic material that comes directly from an environmental sample. Once she has this information, Zoe uses a whole suite of computational tools to filter out the information she is looking for – in this case, specific genes that cause antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The collection and processing of this information are called “bioinformatics.” As Zoe uses bioinformatics to address her research, she hopes to increase our understanding of how changes to an environment (such as an infection) can lead to fluctuation in gut microbial communities. One day, this information may help us predict how our gut communities will respond to different antibiotic treatments. Zoe is also involved with the MSU Council of Graduate Students (COGS) and Graduate Women in Science (GWIS).

If you’re interested in learning more about Zoe and her research, you can reach out to her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter.

If you’re interested in talking about your MSU research on the radio or nominating a student, please email Chelsie and Danny at [email protected]. You can ask questions about future episodes here. Check The Sci-Files out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!